Reasons to Stop Writing Checks

 Do you really need to write a check? They've come in handy for years, but these days there just aren't many places that you still need to write a check to. Alternatives are safer, easier, greener, and cheaper. Let's see why you should strive to never write a check again.

Online is Easier

Person relaxing with laptop in bed. Paying bills online instead of licking envelopes.
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If you need to pay bills, why write a check? With a few mouse clicks, your payment will be on the way to your service provider - no postage required.

If you trust them (and yourself to have sufficient funds), you can even let them pull the money out automatically when the bill is due.

What if you're on vacation and forgot to pay a bill? No problem: just login to your account, pay the bill, and let the bank take care of the rest.

You're looking at your computer now - how much time and physical effort would it take to write and send a check?

Tips for Online Banking:

Save Money

Annoyed bank customer at ATM, with zero account balance.
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Reduce the chances of annoying bank fees by keeping close tabs on your bank account.

If you write paper checks, it's harder to keep up. If you bank online, you're on top of things every time you log in. All the information you need about outstanding checks and account history is right in front of you. Your bank may even help you balance your checking account by reducing your 'available' balance for bills you've paid online - even if the recipient hasn't deposited the check.

If you find yourself paying overdraft fees, consider doing more online (you should also watch your budget and get an overdraft line of credit).

Speaking of saving money, you have to pay for those checks when you order them, and you have to pay for postage when you mail your bills in. Keep that money in the bank.

Further reading:

Stop Hauling Your Checkbook Around

A bag emptied on the table, showing contents - including a bulky checkbook/wallet aka 'The Brick'.
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If you use alternatives to checks, you can stop carrying your checkbook around. You can use a debit card, a credit card, or cash to make payments.

Carrying a checkbook means extra bulk and extra risk. If your checkbook is lost, you'll have to notify the bank and keep a sharp eye out for fraud. Plus you'll have to reorder checks. If you carry your checkbook everywhere you go you're increasing the chances of an inconvenience.

The debit card will access the same funds from your checking account, but it takes up less space. They're accepted pretty much everywhere these days, and you probably carry it with you anyway.

You'll save money on reordering checks, and you'll save time at the checkout counter.

For some people, it makes sense to carry a blank check around, but you can get a lot done without checks.

Debit Card Tips:

Never Balance Checking Accounts on Paper Again

Entries from balancing a checkbook, where the photographer becomes debt free. Payoff entries shown.
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Balancing checking accounts is a chore. Some people do OK by balancing their account every time they write a check - right in front of the cashier. However, most people don't or won't.

You hardly need to balance your checkbook with a paper check register anymore. The more you bank online, the more they handle everything for you. They'll show any pending transactions, your account history, and your balance available for withdrawal. You can export everything to your favorite financial software program if you like.

Save the ink, paper, and brainpower cycles: let computers do the work for you.

Writing Checks Takes Time

Long line at Starbucks. Perhaps somebody is writing a check to pay for a latte.
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Writing checks is a labor-intensive process. You have to grab them, write everything properly, fill in the numbers, and sign. Then you may have to provide ID and add more information that the cashier requires. Hopefully, nobody behind you is in a hurry.

You can move faster by using a Debit card. When paying bills, you can get the bills paid more quickly online - with fewer errors, and at a lower cost (see previous pages for details).

Further reading:

Ever Heard "The Check is in the Mail"?

A financial mailing found in the street by the bus stop. The envelope is opened and empty.
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The mail is quite reliable. However, checks just seem to move through the system more slowly sometimes. Sometimes they even get lost.

A lost check can be dangerous. Your account information (those goofy numbers on the bottom of each check) can end up in the wrong hands.

Checks can be lost or compromised in transit, at a retailer, or at your bank. The more checks you write, the greater the odds of a problem.

Paying bills electronically and using a debit/credit card will reduce the chances of a problem. You can also get more liberal consumer protection by using a card.

Finally, you have to manually balance your checkbook yourself when you use paper checks. If you pay electronically, the bank does most of that work for you.

Further reading:

Waiting for Checks

A box with shipping label.
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If you keep writing checks, you'll just have to order more. That costs money, and you have to wait for shipment. In addition, you're putting a strain on the environment (see the next page for more detail). If you pay bills electronically and use a debit card, you can save checks for those rare cases where a paper check is necessary. Most of your monthly and daily payments do not fall into that category.

Further reading:

Writing Checks = Environmental Waste

Globe with ink cartridges stuck on it. The Earth is Low on Ink - Please Send More Cartridges
Earth is Low on Ink - Please Send More Cartridges. Photo by .

Checks seem like tiny pieces of paper, but writing checks uses more resources than paying online and using debit cards. Checks can consume natural resources in any of the ways below when they are:

  • Printed and shipped to you
  • Mailed in to pay bills
  • Destroyed (or recycled) by banks and payees

Using checks means that you have to use:

  • Paper and ink to create them
  • Fuel, roads, and wear-and-tear to ship them
  • People's time and energy to process them

Further reading: